By law, an employer is responsible for providing employees with disabilities reasonable accommodations when requested. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, leaving those who need the most assistance unprotected. It is essential to understand your rights as an employee. Our New Jersey employment attorneys discuss employee rights outlined in federal and state law, what falls within “a reasonable accommodation,” and how to advocate for yourself in the workplace.
Understanding Reasonable Accommodations
The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines reasonable accommodation as “any change in the work environment or in the way a job is performed that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.”
Reasonable accommodations are classified under three types of changes;
- To job application process changes
- To work environment, or the manner a job is done
- To allow an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that a request for a reasonable accommodation does not have to be in writing and can be a simple face-to-face conversation. This rule intends to protect those who may not be aware of their legal rights. However, it is recommended that you formalize your request and submit it in writing. There are no “magic words” you need to use, but it’s best to be explicit: explaining that you have a disability that requires accommodation. It is the responsibility of the employee to make the employer aware of the need for accommodation; employers are not responsible for anticipating the need for the accommodation.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
Depending on your specific situation, the following are examples of reasonable accommodation for a disability:
● Allowing you to work from home
● Improved accessibility in a work area
● Provided reserved parking
● Reassignment to a vacant position
● Allowing you to take an unpaid medical leave
● Provision of special equipment or devices
However, not all accommodations are created equal. An employer is not required to accommodate you if your request would cause “undue hardship” to the employer. Undue hardship involves an accommodation that would be significantly difficult to fulfill or too costly for the employer to implement. Some examples of accommodations that may be deemed unreasonable include;
● Lowering production standards applied to other employees
● Removing essential job functions from the position
● Displacing a fellow employee
Under the law, employees with disabilities are not the only employees entitled to reasonable accommodation, as our laws also require reasonable accommodation of pregnancy and religious beliefs.
In 2014, The New Jersey legislature amended the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to include pregnancy as a protected class. Reasonable accommodations for pregnant women can consist of:
● bathroom breaks,
● breaks for increased water intake,
● periodic rest,
● assistance with manual labor,
● modified work schedules, and
● temporary transfers to a less strenuous or hazardous position.
A reasonable accommodation is also required to allow employees to practice their religious beliefs. These adjustments can be in the form of changes in scheduling or leave for religious observances and things such as dress or grooming practices related to the employee’s religious practices. But again, if an accommodation would cause an “undue hardship” to your co-workers, your employer may be entitled to deny your request.
Protecting Your Rights
Suppose your employer ignores your request for reasonable accommodations or flat out denies it. In that case, we highly recommend that you seek legal guidance from an experienced employment lawyer. An employment lawyer will be available to review the particularities of your case and guide you through the process from start to finish.
How We Can Help
Filing a discrimination lawsuit against your employer may seem intimidating at first, but you do not have to go at it alone. With over 50 years of experience fighting for employee rights in the workplace, we can help you get the accommodation you deserve.
If you have been denied reasonable accommodations in the workplace, contact Schall & Barasch, LLC at (856) 242-8491! We are here to fight for you.